This week I had a conversation with someone who offended me with his words of naivety. There is a false assumption that grief is short term and has an expiry date, thus there is a notion that people who are actively grieving and showing such bouts of emotions after 12 months must need clinical assistance because this may be viewed as ‘unhealthy’ or ‘abnormal’. The reality however is that the sadness, despair and rumination that one may present in their grieving style may be and most oftenly present after the first 12 months. This is a necessary process of re-adjustment and re-learning to live without the deceased which can be a confusing and confronting time in one’s life. We can choose to ‘disassociate’ from our grief but that creates complications elsewhere and may manifest itself somatically in the body. Educating people on how you grieve is pivotal to your well being, you are the expert of your grief and only you know how to ‘dose’ yourself and regulate your emotions. This is your coping mechanism and we all do this very differently.
Therefore grief is a life long process and grief triggers may present throughout the life span of an individual. Often enough we will experience multiple bereavements and with each one another wound is re-opened. It is not uncommon (for example) for someone to experience the loss of both parents in a short duration of time (orphaned adult) or someone to have lost multiple family members to varies causes in a short period of time. We are naive to think that death will only bestow us once in a life time. Companion animal loss is also another huge area that is often not recognised in our culture. People who lose a pet have invested a lifetime in rearing their companion animal, this love equates to unconditional positive regard, the love of a pet is second to known. We must never underestimate the reaction of grief someone experiences after losing a companion pet. Many will dismiss the griever and often their sorrow is disenfranchised but the loss should be viewed and in some circumstances equated to that of a human loss. We must ‘right the wrong’ here also and educate people that this is a real bereavement and the griever may experience more complex grief after losing a pet than what they have experienced after a human loss. Remember we all value relationships very differently and this is highly dependent on the attachment each human being invests with their loved one (both furry or not!).
In conclusion I urge people to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and gauge themselves when confronted with other’s expectations of them. After all we must ‘right the wrong’ and remind people that grief and healing is part of the human condition.
Don’t let other peoples judgements or criticisms dismay you….. Owe your grief!
Written by Janice Butera
Dedicated in the memory of Chi Chi Bella.